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 Time’s A Thief

by Margo Das

With stealthy fingers
hidden in the shadows
It steals minute after minute
from under our blistered feet

 

Leaving us behind in the dark
no clue as to when we’ll end up
But the ticking of the clocks
speaks  to our imaginations

 

It’s no wonder why we run
no mystery why we flee
Even I am often worried
about time catching up with me

 

Those fingers show up in my nightmares
grabbing me by the ankles, tripping me up
I’ve seen what it can do
So in cold sweat, I’m waking up

 

While words can be scarring
they are no match for time
For when it is not healing
it can leave a lasting burn

 

But the worst of all?
We lost the cure
Burying it next to our happiness
all those years ago

 

So I resigned myself to waiting
ever so patiently
Until the lines, one by one,
are all drawn upon my face

 

That time I will spend crafting
something to outlast me
And in this ink and paper
I will find my immortality



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 HOMELESS JACK TO YOUNG KID WHO WON'T BE READING THIS

by John Grey

For me there is no return to sanity.

I drink like a baleen whale,

rotting nose, unwashed hair,

wear the same clothes day after day.

I write poems on scrap paper for imaginary whores.

I walk with my head hanging down

It can't sink any lower.

My heart is no use to me any more.

My apartment is cardboard

and it falls down around me.

Bums like me pick quarrels, then we weep.

We scream at ourselves in our dens.

Survive! Only the devil knows how.

Cheap whiskey and a disability check,

and a rough night's sleep beneath

the cathedral's gilded domes.

Yes, I am one of the lost, just like you,

wandering all night till dawn.

But I don't mope over lost love.

It's the years I've lived that stand me up.

So I drown my eyes in

all the bandit brew I can't afford.

I stick out my rough red hand at passersby.

I'm pissed off at everything and everyone.

I'd kick my mangy dog if I had one.

My best times are spent remembering the old country,

the youth you squander but I cherish,

the moon consecrating steeples,

hillsides, sleepy and golden,

villages, muddy but clean.

My speech patterns are slurred but proud.

That old accent can't speak enough of me.

But you talk tawdry and decayed before your time.

Your voice is a razor, its tongue spent slashing you.

We're both out here in this dread downtown.

I huddle under bridges where neon can't find me.

You seek out the lights as painted as your face.

Snow falls and you duck into a club.

I wrap the ragged blanket around me.

I'm wasted, you're about to be.

I'm condemned to die, you to live.



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I Am Autistic

by Seth Smith

I am autistic.

I’m the weird one, the one you see out of the corner of your eye. My movements are different, obvious. Sometimes I’m waving my arms up and down, a bright smile on my face. A gasp of excitement. Flapping. I’m a hummingbird, trying to fly.

I’m obsessed. I dive wholeheartedly into fandoms. I know everything about the greek gods, about the world of Harry Potter. I am wearing a shirt with the pi symbol. You look a little closer. The symbol is made up of the numbers. You comment on it and the words come flying out of my mouth. I know so much about this. I love this topic. My special interests, I infodump to you.

I’m overwhelmed. I’m rocking, it’s all too much. I have to get out. Don’t touch me don’t touch me don’t touch me there’s too much noise I can’t handle it out out I need to get out don’t touch too much. My hands are over my ears, my eyes squeezed shut against the brightness. The carpet feels like rubbing a hedgehog the wrong way. I am overreacting you say, but I cannot process anything properly anymore.

I stop talking. I cannot say a word. I try to but all that comes out is a noise. Stop grunting I am told. All that comes from her are grunts. I am a boy but I cannot correct you. I am too overwhelmed to function properly so I follow like a zombie. Silent. Nonverbal.

I am nervous. I am rocking. Silent. Afraid. Anxious. You are An Adult. You should be able to do Adult Things. I cannot do these things. I cannot talk to that person. Don’t make me do that please. But you don’t listen you yell and get mad. I cry, silently. I say nothing. I am nothing. I curl up. I rock. I have no voice, no power. I do not know myself. Everything scares me.

I need a cat. I speak up. I am terrified. I found a job I can do. It is a small job but I can do it. I need a service dog. I need help. I am telling you this because you said it is okay to ask for help. But it is not okay. It is not okay if it does not fall under the invisible guidelines you have set. I don’t know. I don’t know what I am doing. There is nothing in my brain. I have no ideas. You told me my ideas were Wrong. Very Wrong. But then you ask me for ideas of which I do not have. You do not listen to me when I tell you ideas but not having any ideas is Not Okay? What did I do? I don’t understand. I never understand.

The world hates me. I understand this now. The world was not made for me. The lights are too bright, the noises too loud. I do not understand these invisible rules. I trip over them again and again and again. The things I touch and feel are Bad textures. The smells too strong, the tastes too much. My brain doesn’t work right. I get overwhelmed too easily. I get burnt out but I am called lazy. I have a meltdown but it is just a tantrum from a spoiled child. I shut down but according to others I am uncooperative. Those who take care of me are so brave, so courageous for putting up with someone like that. People hate me. It is okay, even accepted to kill me. Organizations want to get rid of me. The world wants to get rid of me.

I speak quietly.

I am autistic.



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 Strings

by Rahul Shirke

We don’t notice it when we kiss, but there are strings sewn into our lips. You can only pull away so far before they start to hurt us both. We think about each other between blinks, and we forget the strings are there.

They are so fine, like spider silk. I touch them when they’re taut. You pull on them when they’re loose. We try to unroot the stitches from each other’s lips, but it hurts too much, so we stop.

The smallest flowers grow under our fingernails when we sneak a finger into the other’s mouth. Pretty flowers, vivid colours. Sometimes, more than one flower grows under a fingernail. It ruins the symmetry, so we make the other bite it off.

Each flower has its own fragrance. Sometimes we pretend we’re painting each other’s faces with the flowers. They brush so gently across our cheeks and between our brows. We close our eyes and try to guess what the other is painting.

But eventually, the petals wither away, the flower falls, and the fingernail is bare once more. You place my finger in your mouth, and another flower blooms. I don’t feel it happen, but I see it once I draw my finger out.

The skin of your scalp has storms on it. Red rashes, the tiniest lumps, they sprout between your hair. I never see them move, but each time I look at them, they’re in a different place. Turbulent, always erupting, always migrating.

I touch my forehead to yours and hope they’d jump over to my head. They don’t.

The geography of our frowns changes each time we wake up. Sometimes we count how many valleys there are, or how many rivers could flow through them. We could grow forests if we tried, and perhaps we could build a little desert from the sand in our eyes.

You never say what you see when you watch me sleep. Could it be very different from what I see when I watch you sleep? I guess we’ll agree to keep that a mystery.

When you really look at an eye, you start to see the maelstroms it contains. If you were to put a finger in there, it would get sucked right in, lost into the vortex, lost to the void.

We have both agreed that one day, the strings will snap. There will be no more flowers that bloom and brush across skin. The storms will be go unseen, and no one will count our valleys or imagine rivers. The maelstroms will calm, and the void will dissipate.

We have to make sure that happens. Only we can make sure that it happens.

Until it happens, we kiss between blinks, we think about each other, we forget about the strings.



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Made With Love

by Gavriel Bartholomew

The cold metal once again delved deep into my body, scraping away shavings of my life. The strokes were slow and methodical, each one sapping me of any strength I ever had. I was slowly dying.

Minutes; hours; days went by, I was numb to the never-ending pain and relentless torture. So thirsty, so dry; I needed water so badly. What was left of my body was aching and broken. Darkness was descending on me and I couldn't escape, I was leaving forever and ever. Everything stopped.

I trudge down the steps, my body and brain still not quite awake. Sunlight leeches in through the gaps between the light beige-coloured curtains in my small kitchen. I hurriedly fix myself a bowl of cereal and begin a quick search for a spoon to eat it with. After inhaling my breakfast, I quite literally fly down the flight of stairs to my studio.

My studio is admittedly a terrible mess. Various varnish containers cover tabletops along with a range of sticky brushes with most bristles missing. A series of chisels and delicate utensils are arrayed on another larger bench. I brush my hands over my latest piece of work. It is almost ready to be put together. I have made many of these before, but this one is particularly special, because it is for a very talented player and a good friend.

I palm a small piece of fine sanding paper and begin to smooth over the edges of the wood. After preparing a darker varnish and selecting a reasonably intact brush, I start to paint the body of the instrument. One stroke up, another going down; up and down, just like clockwork.

It's now lunchtime and I'm letting the varnish dry. I'm far from over, but this instrument is starting to come alive.

I can feel something soft and warm on top of me. It is gentle, like a soft breeze through the forest. What is it? There is a sound also; sweet, smooth, comforting. I am feeling better now but I need water, I am so thirsty.

The soft thing is gone, as well as the sound. I can hear clattering and muttering. I am scared. But the sweet sound comes back, I think it is music. I feel something cold brush up against me, it reminds me of water, it is wet. I soak it up like fresh morning dew on a parched leaf. The music goes away again. The water is drying up, but I am not thirsty anymore. I feel great.

I head back downstairs again to check on the varnish. It has dried perfectly and it looks fabulous. I set myself into the worn and faded chair to start. First, I fix the fingerboard to the neck and put it to the side. The pegs are quite hard because you don't want them too loose or too tight. I do these next.

I attach the nut to the top of the fingerboard and then fix the chinrest and tail piece onto the end of the body. The end button keeps the tail piece in line with the neck. I now attach the neck to the upper bout and add the bridge between the f holes.

Now I stop because there isn't anything else to do except for putting on the strings which are at the post office. Next stop: the post office.

The soft, sweet sound comes back again. I am happy. It is making me into something. It hurt at first, but I feel better now.

I take the strings out of the envelope and wind them around the pegs. As I work I hum a tune and go over a checklist in mind. I remember the very beginning, carving out the body of the instrument from the wood. Sanding it and smoothing the edges, drying and varnishing it. Finally putting it together.

I select a bow from the line hanging on the wall and pick up the instrument to tune it. When it is tuned to perfection, I rest it on my leg and polish it until I can see myself in it. I check my watch and jump out of my skin; I realise that I'm late. I place the instrument in its case along with my most prized bow and head off to the auditorium.

Walls surround me, enclosing me within them. I am imprisoned inside this, with soft material all around me. I must escape!

I arrive at the auditorium very late, I can see cars lined up outside and the door is unlocked. I rush over to the main table for the presentation. I am apologising profusely.

There is a soft ripple of murmuring around the table. I unzip the case and open it wide.

There are lots of sounds around me, the fabric is pulled away from me and I am taken out.

I gently take out the instrument and the bow out and pass it to the young girl at the end of the table. She smiles and thanks me as the table bursts into applause. The girl stands and then there is a silence of anticipation. I dearly hope that she will play a song for us.

"This is the most beautiful violin I have ever seen," she says while lifting the bow and placing her fingers on the strings. Then she plays; slowly, sweetly and with such ease. She is simply astounding.

I am a violin – a violin! The sound said so! It said I was beautiful too! I am beautiful!

The sound is extraordinary, the most amazing sound I've ever heard. The violin is perfect; beautiful; wonderful. I am so happy. 

I am making sound, good sound – music, the best sound is music. I am a violin and I love it!



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